Jeff Cartwright is used to attending emergencies, but nothing prepared him for a life-changing health diagnosis in his own family.
Last summer, the New Westminster firefighter learned his son Liam has Type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis came after his mom took him to the doctor because he was constantly thirsty.
"Sleepovers are out, birthday cake is out, freezies after the game are out," Cartwright said about the life-changing diagnosis.
Liam now gets two shots of insulin in the morning, one at dinner and a final shot at bedtime.
"He's a warrior," Cartwright said of his eight-year-old son. "He's absolutely amazing. He is dealing with it better than I am dealing with it. It's a different life now. I never go anywhere without a granola bar or a blood test kit."
In addition to getting four insulin shots a day and changing his diet, Liam's blood sugar needs to be constantly monitored. At some point, he may get a pump that administers insulin throughout the day as needed.
Once the shock of his son's diagnosis wore off, Cartwright decided he wanted to do something to raise money for the JDRF - the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. "I watched the movie Dodgeball. I thought that would be fun," he said about holding a tournament. "I thought I would get firemen involved."
Cartwright contacted the Vancouver Dodgeball League to see if it would be willing to support a small dodgeball tournament to raise money for the foundation.
Keith Bao, executive director of the Vancouver Dodgeball League, said the organization had been looking for a charitable event it could support, but it wanted to find one that had the right fit.
"It seems very fitting," he said about raising funds for JDRF through dodgeball.
Bao believes the tournament has the potential to become one of the biggest fundraisers for the foundation in Canada, and could be a catalyst for similar leagues and tournaments in other cities.
Cartwright said he was shocked to learn that the Vancouver Dodgeball League has more than 1,500 regular participants.
"Wait until you watch them," Cartwright said. "It's infectious."
Members of the Vancouver Dodgeball League play four nights a week, and attract members from around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
"We have two seasons a year. We have four nights every season," said Victoria Mui, tournament manager.
Supporting the foundation through her love of dodgeball was a natural fit for Mui, whose sister has Type 1 diabetes.
"She was diagnosed when she was 16," Mui said.
According to the foundation, Canada has the sixth highest incidence rate in the world of Type 1 diabetes in children 14 years or younger. More than 300,000 Canadian children and adults live with this form of diabetes.
Cartwright is no stranger to raising money for charity, having served as vice president of the New Westminster Firefighters' Charitable Society for several years. With medical researchers saying it's possible for a cure for Type 1 diabetes to be discovered in his lifetime, the New Westminster resident wanted to do something to raise funds for the foundation.
The JDRF Dodgeball Open will take place from July 27 to 29 at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
"It's cool to be raising more awareness and connecting with the community," said Amanda De Vries, fundraising and development coordinator with JDRF. "These guys have really stepped up. I am excited for their success this year."
The foundation is the largest charitable funder and advocate for Type 1 diabetes research. Its mission is to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes, which is a non-preventable autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
According to the foundation, people living with Type 1 diabetes need to test their blood sugar and give themselves insulin through injections or a pump multiple times a day. They are also at risk for developing complications.
As Liam's lacrosse coach, Cartwright often has to check his blood sugar levels on the bench while the game continues on the floor. When Liam's teammates enjoy an after-game freezie, he has to go without and enjoy a treat better suited to his health needs.
"One hundred per cent of the funds are going to juvenile diabetes," Cartwright said of the dodgeball tournament.
So far, about 30 teams have signed up to participate in the inaugural JDRF Dodgeball Open.
"We are still looking for teams, we are still looking for sponsors," Cartwright said. "If you don't want to play, you can donate directly to JDRF."
Tax receipts are available and all players receive a tournament T-shirt, customized team photo, JDRF diabetes awareness silicone bracelet, complimentary admission to a pub night party and an after-party and special hotel rate.
For tournament details and registration, visit www.jdrfdodgeball.com.